WORKPLACES will be calmer places with the University of Hertfordshire's new system to help occupational health workers investigate and treat stress-related absence.

It took two years for academics at the university and Heales Medical Ltd to develop their Person and Environment Stress Tool (PEST), which has been named Best Partnership in the South East of England in the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership awards.

Professor Ben Fletcher, head of the school of psychology, said: "Most of the projects that win this are technology ones - it's the first time a psychologist has won.

"It's obvious when a person is stressed, but the main problem is identifying why.

"You need to know whether it's a personal or a work problem.

"A small core of people will use GPs to swing the lead', but knowing that this objective system is in practice may prevent them from trying it on, and will reveal if they do."

The PEST process analyses and scores assessments from the stressed employee, their supervisor, and medical practitioners, helping occupational health managers see where the problems lie, and address them.

In public organisations in the UK, stress is the number one reason for sickness absence.

Heales Medical believes that PEST will double the size of its business over the next three years.